Setting a high bar

ATL is embarking on its most exciting journey to date with a drive to double the size of the business in the next five years and set new benchmarks for customer service and efficiency.

With a multi-million pound investment in its new Midlands Hub at Foston, near Derby, and state-of-the-art management systems, the company is well on its way to achieving its objectives, with a growing customer-base of leading names turning to ATL for bespoke logistics solutions.

Although ATL was started 60 years ago by Dennis Ascott – the father of the current chairman Pete Ascott and his vice chair brother Joey – the company is very much focused on the future.

Spearheading the growth is new managing director Jon Ward whose vision is for ATL to become a new standard bearer for the industry whilst keeping the approachability and flexibility the company has built it’s name on. “The precedent for growth is there,” he explains. “In the last three years alone we’ve gone from 500,000 sq. feet to 1.2m sq. feet of warehousing with a corresponding increase in staff and vehicles.

“But whilst size and facilities are obviously important, it’s the way we do business that really sets us apart with our growth over the last few years being very much demand-led. We are building ever-stronger relationships with big name companies such as JCB, Nestlé, Pirelli and Trelleborg, because we take a genuinely partnership approach with regard to their requirements and are prepared to offer them an individual solution specific to their needs.”

Typical of this approach is that whilst the new Foston development could have housed 32,000 pallet spaces, this was kept to 15,000 on the food side with another 12,000 for non-food because this fitted in better with the customers’ specified use.

ATL’s resources are increasingly impressive with the predominantly high bay warehousing serviced by a fleet of 74 commercial vehicles and 150 trailers.

Whilst it operates a main warehouse at Carlisle and other established facilities at strategic locations, it is the new development at Foston that provides the opportunity to lift the company’s game significantly, Jon Ward believes. “Foston has not just added another 190,000 sq. ft of high rack warehousing to our business, it’s allowed us to adopt the latest warehouse management systems to improve efficiency and the overall customer experience.

“Modern air-conditioned offices have also allowed us to improve working conditions and we have increased local employment by 20 per cent from 200 to 240 people at the site.”

But Jon is more than aware that building infrastructure is only part of the equation in a fast growing company. “We want to build trust across all stakeholders, invest in quality of service, give customers peace of mind and conduct business in a friendly, attentive manner – that’s what really sets one business apart from another and it’s where much of our focus lies.

“We’re quite prepared to look outside of our immediate industry and see who is doing the best job in their sectors and learn from them. For example, if we can bring ideas across from a company like John Lewis, we will. We want to be ‘best-in-class’ and people are critically important in this.”

ATL head of distribution Leighton Wood agrees, saying training and development is likely to have an increasingly important part to play in the company achieving its goals. “It’s not just about building skills, it’s ensuring everybody understands what we’re all about and feels part of the team. We want people to feel they have a real future at ATL and that they can grow within the organisation.”

With this in mind, Leighton has been instrumental in launching ATL’s Transport Academy designed to give those interested in a career in logistics a leg up as well as helping the company grow its own foundation of drivers.

“The ATL Transport Academy provides drivers with a two week training programme to gain experience in different teams, as well as the chance to shadow a driver, practice shunting into bays and take a driver compliance test, before given employment.

“Many newly qualified drivers find it difficult to get jobs without experience so this is a fantastic way to give drivers the experience they need and the chance to work for a growing company. We can also use the scheme to offer experience of working in various roles in a transport office and develop specific skills such as logistics planning.”

Whilst Foston allows the company to achieve its commercial objectives in the short-term, it also acts as template for future business development, says head of warehousing Ricardo Sarsfield.

“We’ve learned a lot very quickly developing the Midlands Hub and we now have real insight into how we can take this business model to other locations and build scale. We’re using the latest narrow aisle line-guided equipment from Jungheinrich allied to a state-of-the-art JDA on-demand internet-based warehouse management system so we have the potential to go to full automation in the future, if we want to. This not only improves our efficiency of operation considerably, it also offers greater accountability and accessibility to data for the companies we work with.

“By using scanners and linking to our narrow aisle trucks, customers have full visibility of where their products are at any given time, whether in the warehouse or on delivery. It can also be linked to billing, allowing companies to go paperless if they want to.”

Nestlé and Pirelli are already using the full web-interface the system offers with other clients likely to follow suit in the near future, Ricardo says. “It’s a fully integrated system that we can effectively implement in any future operations we develop and can grow with us as we take on new sites.”

With outline planning permission for two additional warehouses at Foston adding another 200,000 sq. ft as well as plans for other hubs across the country and customer demand continuing to grow, ATL is unlikely to stay at its current size for long, Jon Ward believes. “These are exciting times. The challenge is for myself, the management team and all our staff to take what the Ascott family have built and take it to new heights.

“We have a fantastic foundation to start from, a real vision of how we can take this business model further in the future and a great team to make it happen. I think we’re only just beginning to realise the full potential we have.”

Innovative logistics service provider
Takes a partnership approach with clients
Major investments in facilities and staff